Internet addiction disorder is a growing concern due to the rise in mobile technology.
The NHS defines addiction as “not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it can be harmful to you.” This definition clearly illustrates how cocaine use can become addictive. Cocaine is a nasty drug that affects both the mind and body to the point of causing significant harm. It also can affect the brain to the extent that the drug controls behaviour rather than the individual controlling drug use.
But what about internet use? Can it have the same kind of harmful effects?
There is some debate over whether compulsive internet usage constitutes addiction. But even within that debate, most psychiatrists and addiction experts recognise that people engage in internet use compulsively. The two areas where this is most common are social media use and online role-playing games.
There are plenty of stories of individuals who become socially dysfunctional because they spend almost all of their time on the internet. Whether you use the term ‘addicted’ or not, it is clear that online behaviour controls their lives. This is very harmful on a psychological and emotional level. It can be harmful physically as well if the internet user neglects hygiene, diet, and so on.
We are of a mind that internet addiction is every bit as real and harmful as substance addictions. We have seen for ourselves how harmful compulsive use of online resources can be. We have also learned that there are definite signs you can look for to identify an internet addiction in yourself or others.
The most visible signs of internet addiction are as follows:
One of the most interesting aspects of internet addiction is that it can take several forms. One person might be addicted solely to social media while another person splits time between social media and pornography sites. Another internet addict may be connected to reading news or following sports. Such variations are what make treating internet addiction so challenging.
With Netflix, just because you go and watch a series from start to finish in one evening, does that mean you’re an addict? No,( Eytan Alexander )
Because the science behind internet addiction is relatively new, treatment providers do not have a lot to go on other than the knowledge gleaned from other types of addictive behaviour. Right now, we rely heavily on the experience we already have with gambling and sex addictions, given that compulsive behaviours tend to share a lot of similarities. The first step in treating internet addiction is, therefore, identifying the problem exists.
It is generally accepted that a person whose online time is so excessive that it interferes with what is considered normal social functioning is someone who at least needs to be evaluated. The person on the road to internet addiction is someone who will prefer online activity over most other things. He or she will lose interest in other hobbies; social interaction will be put on the back burner; there will be little desire to get out of the house and do things.
In its most severe form, internet addiction results in the same types of scenarios we see with other behavioural and substance addictions: the addictive behaviour takes over as the primary controlling factor in a person’s life. Most decisions are made based on using the internet; going online determines the course of the addict’s day; if the addict has to choose between getting online or doing something else, the internet usually wins.
Should internet addiction be diagnosed by a specialist, treatment typically follows a pretty reliable course:
Internet addiction is a very real problem, irrespective of whether some of the symptoms and results of the condition meet the same clinical terms as other types of compulsive behaviours. It ruins relationships, drives spouses and partners away, jeopardises financial stability, and alters cognitive function. We urge you to contact UKAT right away if you or someone you love seems to be addicted to the internet.